University, Landed Class, and Land Reform: Transwar Origins of Private Universities in South Korea, 1920–1960

Do Young OH

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The university in South Korea is often labeled as an "oxbone tower;' in contrast to the more popular term "ivory tower." This term derives from the phenomenon of farmers selling their cattle in order to pay their children's tuition, with that money often used to construct new campus buildings. The term first appeared
in newspapers in 1969 when national assembly members used it to criticize the private universities' profit-seeking and asset-accumulating behaviors at the time. It is still widely used because the higher education structure has not changed significantly since then. Private universities dominate the higher
education system in South Korea, and their operations are primarily funded by tuition fees, meaning that the burden of education has been transferred to households to a great extent. On the other hand, private universities have been considered as assets of their founders like chaebols in South Korea. According
to an investigation in 2015, half the private universities were run by families of their founders. Substantial corruption has accompanied this nepotistic system. Until 2019, the government has detected 1,367 cases of misappropriation of funds and accounting fraud by private universities since they were established. Considering there are 293 private universities in South Korea, this equates to an average of 4.7 cases per university. Such investigations show a problematic situation of private universities in South Korea today.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranswar Asia : Ideology, Practices, and Institutions, 1920-1960
EditorsReto HOFMANN, Max WARD
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing Plc
ISBN (Electronic)9781350182820
ISBN (Print)9781350182813
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2022

Publication series

NameSOAS Studies in Modern and Contemporary Japan
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing


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